Florida defense solidifying as spring continues

Last Friday, one day before the Florida Gators‘ Saturday scrimmage, head coach Will Muschamp provided a number of updates about his players and discussed some hot topics concerning the team.

REBUILDING THE PASS RUSH

Once Florida lost defensive tackle Dominique Easley to a season-ending injury in 2013, the Gators pass rush suffered. With Easley now headed for the NFL, UF is on its way to ensuring that it will be able to pressure the quarterback this season.

Leading the pack, of course, is junior Buck linebacker Dante Fowler, Jr., who led Florida with 10.5 tackles for loss and finished second with 3.5 sacks as a sophomore. “Dante Fowler continues to play extremely well, hard, tough. He’s practicing with a purpose every day. He goes out there every day and really competes,” Muschamp said. “I think we have a special rusher in Dante.”

Junior defensive end Jonathan Bullard, long expected to be Fowler’s bash brother coming off the edge, played well in 2013 but continues to be worked inside at tackle as well in order for the Gators to build depth and get as much top-tier talent on the field as possible. Muschamp likes how Bullard matches up against guards because of his athleticism and is able to play him inside because of how redshirt sophomore Bryan Cox, Jr. has developed as an edge rusher.

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3/25: Florida defense years ahead of offense, Gators injury and depth chart updates

Spring practice remains underway for the Florida Gators with the team participating in workouts, many of which have been open to the public, for the second-straight week. Head coach Will Muschamp discussed practice, provided injury updates and went over a number of hot topics when he met with the media Tuesday afternoon.

FOUR DAYS VS. FOUR YEARS

Twice on Tuesday, Muschamp made it a point to note that there is quite a disparity between the respective preparedness of Florida’s offense and defense.

“Our team, let’s see, has had four days of installation offensively…and about four years of installation defensively. I think that puts things in perspective a little bit about where we are,” he explained.

Though the Gators defense lost most of its best players to graduation and the NFL Draft, the remaining student-athletes are all familiar with the system and simply building their knowledge base from one season to the next. In fact, Muschamp said Florida has “not cut back at all defensively” with formations or play calling, trying to make things “as hard as possible” on an offense that is much less comfortable in its own skin.

New offensive coordinator Kurt Roper has only been able to work with his unit on the field for four days, but Muschamp noted that he is “really pleased with the production” the offense has shown thus far, saying it is “really playing fast, physical” and “really limiting negative plays.” He also praised Roper for his approach to this point.

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Gators 2014 Spring Football Preview: Defense

Spring practice for the Florida Gators football program begins on Wednesday, March 19 and lasts for 15 practices concluding with the 2014 Orange & Blue Debut spring game on Saturday, April 12. Below is the first of OnlyGators.com‘s two-part series that takes a look at the team on a position-by-position basis.

PART ONE: Offense

Due to extensive team injuries, more players started for Florida at times in 2013 than normal. In this case, the term “starter” is being used as applicable per position.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES
Returning starters (1/2): Redshirt senior Leon Orr
Fresh faces: Redshirt freshmen Caleb Brantley and Jay-nard Bostwick, sophomore Joey Ivie

Losing Dominique Easley so early in the season gave senior Darious “Bear” Cummings more field time than he likely would’ve had during his first year with the program as a transfer from East Mississippi. So while Florida will only be entering 2014 with one returning starter in Orr, who should be primed to finally put everything together at nose in his final season with the team, Cummings may also be poised to have a breakout year if everything lines up correctly. Ivie was on his way to a redshirt before having it pulled due to depth concerns; he saw action in three of the final games. Brantley and Bostwick, on the other hand, were able to go the distance without seeing the field in 2013. Both are expected to be major contributors this year with head coach Will Muschamp mentioning more than once last season that he was on the verge of pulling Bostwick’s redshirt and getting him some playing time.

DEFENSIVE ENDS
Returning starters (2/2): Juniors Dante Fowler, Jr. and Jonathan Bullard
Fresh faces: Redshirt sophomore Alex McCalister, redshirt freshman Jordan Sherit

Fowler returns as Florida’s starter at the hybrid Buck linebacker/defensive end spot after leading the Gators with 10.5 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles in 2013. He also checked in second on the team with 3.5 sacks and seven quarterback hurries, amassing 50 total tackles in the process. Bullard was unable to find much of a groove at end – he rotated in at tackle on occasion – but still managed to be productive; he should be even more so this year as a matured junior. Neither McCalister, who entered the season with high praise from the coaching staff, nor classmate Brian Cox, Jr. saw much action last season, and Sherit (torn meniscus) wound up not stepping foot on the field in 2014. Defensive line coach Brad Lawing will have his work cut out for him not only helping his starters improve but coming up with a solid second-string to spell them at times.

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RB Jones, RG Halapio join QB Driskel as banged-up Florida Gators set to miss practice time

Florida Gators’ 2013 Media Day: Story: Appendectomy just a bump in the road for confident Driskel | News, Notes & Quotes – Will Muschamp breaks down the 2013 Gators | Story: It’s now or never for Florida WR Andre Debose | Story: RB Brown, QB Murphy ready to step up for Gators

Following up a Tuesday announcement that Florida Gators junior starting quarterback Jeff Driskel would miss up to two weeks after undergoing an appendectomy, head coach Will Muschamp announced at his first fall press conference on Thursday that two more starters – sophomore running back Matt Jones and redshirt senior right guard Jon Halapio – will also be absent from the start of camp with ailments of their own.

Jones, who looks to follow Mike Gillislee as a 1,000-yard back for Florida in 2013, fell ill with a serious viral infection this week and is currently being treated by team doctors. He will remain out of action indefinitely.

“He came down with this in the last four or five days,” Muschamp said. “Right now, we’re filling him full of antibiotics. How his body responds will tell me how quickly he can come back. I probably won’t know definitively until the end of next week on that. It’s just one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of [gastrointestinal] issues right now, and he’s dealing with those things. He’s a guy that should be fine. Again, I just don’t know when he will return.”

Halapio, a projected second-day draft selection next year, partially tore a pectoral muscle in mid-July. Though the injury will not require surgery, he will not be reevaluated until Aug. 9, one full week into fall practice.

“Jon Halapio had a partial tear of his pec about three days after media days,” Muschamp said. “There’s no surgery needed. He will be back. It’s just I don’t know exactly when. He meets with the doctor again next Friday to find out exactly when he’ll be back in action.”

Muschamp then praised the team’s physicians for quickly determining why Driskel was sick and ensuring that he had the necessary procedure as soon as possible.

Continue Reading » RB Jones, RG Halapio join QB Driskel as banged-up Florida Gators set to miss practice time

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Gators 2013 freshmen pick uniform numbers

Athletes care about their uniform numbers and now that Florida Gators football team is a month away from beginning fall practice, it was time for the remaining freshman – aside from the eight early enrollees which received uniforms in the spring – to choose theirs. Below is the list according to the school’s most recent media guide:

TRANSFERS
» No. 55 – Darious Cummings (Titusville, FL), junior defensive lineman (EE)
» No. 73 – Tyler Moore (Clearwater, FL), redshirt sophomore offensive lineman (EE)
» No. 74 – Trenton Brown (Milledgeville, GA), junior offensive lineman

FRESHMEN (EARLY ENROLLEES)
» No. 9 – Matt Rolin (Ashburn, VA), freshman linebacker
» No. 11 – Demarcus Robinson (Fort Valley, GA), freshman wide receiver
» No. 13 – Daniel McMillian (Jacksonville, FL), freshman linebacker
» No. 21 – Kelvin Taylor (Belle Glade, FL), freshman running back*
» No. 34 – Alex Anzalone (Wyomissing, PA), freshman linebacker
» No. 91 – Joey Ivie (Dade City, FL), freshman defensive lineman

FRESHMEN
» No. 5 – Ahmad Fulwood (Jacksonville, FL), freshman wide receiver
» No. 12 – Max Staver (Brentwood, TN), freshman quarterback
» No. 14 – Chris Wilkes (Orlando, FL), freshman walk-on quarterback
» No. 16 – Vernon Hargreaves III (Tampa, FL), freshman defensive back
» No. 17 – Jordan Sherit (Tampa, FL), freshman defensive lineman
» No. 22 – Adam Lane (Winter Haven, FL), freshman running back
» No. 22 – Nick Washington (Jacksonville, FL), freshman defensive back
» No. 26 – Marcell Harris (Orlando, FL), freshman defensive back~
» No. 35 – Johnny Townsend (Orlando, FL), freshman punter
» No. 40 – Jarrad Davis (Kingsland, GA), freshman linebacker
» No. 42 – Keanu Neal (Bushnell, FL), freshman defensive back
» No. 45 – Antonio Riles (Lawrenceville, GA), freshman defensive lineman
» No. 50 – Octavius Jackson (Moultrie, GA), freshman offensive lineman
» No. 55 – Roderick Johnson (Delray Beach, FL), freshman offensive lineman^
» No. 57 – Caleb Brantley (Crescent City, FL), freshman defensive lineman
» No. 71 – Cameron Dillard (Canton, MI), freshman offensive lineman
» No. 80 – Trevon Young (Bradenton, FL), freshman tight end
» No. 81 – Marqui Hawkins (Columbus, GA), freshman wide receiver
» No. 85 – Chris Thompson (Gainesville, FL), freshman wide receiver
» No. 89 – Alvin Bailey (Seffner, FL), freshman wide receiver
» No. 99 – Jay-nard Bostwick (Port St. Lucie, FL), freshman defensive lineman

* Kelvin Taylor’s father, Fred Taylor, also wore No. 21 for the Gators.
~ Mike Harris’s father, Mike Harris, wore No. 13 for UF. His son doubled his number.
^ Roderick Johnson is not yet enrolled at Florida.

NUMBER CHANGES
» Sophomore LB Antonio Morrison switched from 12 to 3.
» Redshirt sophomore walk-on DB Evan Schroeder switched from 21 to 22.
» Redshirt freshman walk-on WR Darius Masline switched from 81 to 80.

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Florida Gators 2013 National Signing Day bios

P Johnny Townsend: commit No. 30 | OL/TE Trevon Young: commit No. 29 | JUCO DT Jarran Reed: commit No. 28 | DT Jay-nard Bostwick: commit No. 27 | Muschamp discusses class; assistants evaluate signees | Video interviews with coaches | “Closing”, quarterback situation

Courtesy of the University of Florida‘s University Athletic Association:

EARLY ENROLLEES (8)

Alex Anzalone • Linebacker
6’3″ • 220 • Wyomissing, PA (Wyomissing Area)
PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Helped Wyomissing High to its first Class AA state championship in 2012, finishing 16-0, a school single-season record for wins…Selected to the 2013 Under Armour All-American Game…Finished his senior year with over 1,000 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns from the fullback position and registered more than 100 tackles…Earned a spot on the 247Sports Class of 2013 All-America team…Named senior Class AA Player of the Year as part of the 2012 Pennsylvania Sports Writers All-State Team…As a junior, was named first team all-state, all-region and all-county…In 2011, ran for over 900 yards and scored 13 touchdowns and was named to the all-state team…Invited to “The Opening”, an all-star summer prospect camp held on the Nike Campus…Chose Florida over Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, USC, UCLA, Miami, Tennessee, Pitt, Stanford, Georgia and Florida State…Coached by Bob Wolfrum.

Darious Cummings • Defensive tackle
6’1″ • 310 • Titusville, FL (Astronaut/Florida St./East Mississippi CC)
PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Played in all 10 games during the 2012 season at EMCC, tallying 26 tackles (12 unassisted) with 4.0 TFL (12 yards), 3.0 sacks, two quarterback hurries and one forced fumble…EMCC finished 8-2 on the year and ranked 15th in the final NJCAA poll…Anchored a defense that allowed just 74.2 rushing yards per game…Notched a season-high four tackles twice during the season, against Pearl River CC and Itawamba CC…Played under head coach Buddy Stephens at EMCC…Spent two years at Florida State before transferring to EMCC…Played in three games as a true freshman and two games as a sophomore before suffering an injury that caused him to miss most of the 2011 season…Totaled seven tackles in five career games at FSU…Missed the spring of 2012 at FSU after arthroscopic knee surgery and then transferred to EMCC in the summer of 2012…Entered his senior year of high school with 159 tackles, including 22 for loss and 15 sacks…Was the first commit in FSU’s 2010 signing class…Was a Florida Super 75 selection by the Times-Union…Named to SunStateFootball.com all-state first team in 2009…Attended the same high school as former Gator football players LB Wilber Marshall, WR Cris Collinsworth and TE Aaron Walker…Chose Florida over offers from Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Mississippi State and Arkansas.

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14 Gators commits in final Rivals250 for 2013

Released Tuesday, the fifth and final edition of the Rivals250 for the class of 2013 is filled with players verbally committed to play for the Florida Gators next season. Though seven Florida commits are part of the top 100 players in the group (list released Monday), seven more are ranked among the top 250 recruits in the nation.

Below is a breakdown of where the Gators’ commits are ranked:

2 7 – DB Vernon Hargreaves (Tampa, FL)
28 22 – LB Alex Anzalone^ (Wyomissing, PA)
38 2 – RB Kelvin Taylor (Belle Glade, FL)
52 4 – WR Demarcus Robinson^ (Belle Glade, FL)
63 38 – WR Alvin Bailey (Seffner, FL)
64 17 – DB Keanu Neal (Bushnell, FL)
67 10 – DB Marcell Harris (Orlando, FL)
123 30 – LB Daniel McMillian (Jacksonville, FL)
132 29 – DT Caleb Brantley (Crescent City, FL)
136 19 – WR Ahmad Fulwood (Jacksonville, FL)
164 36 – DB Nick Washington (Jacksonville, FL)
197 2 – LB James Hearns (Tallahassee, FL)
198 3 – DE Joey Ivie (Dade City, FL)
224 6 – DE Jordan Sherit (Tampa, FL)

^ New commitment since last update.

Notes:

» Florida has received a commitment from a top-five player in three of the last four recruiting cycles. The Gators have also picked up the No. 2-ranked prospect in each of the last two years (offensive tackle D.J. Humphries, 2012).
» Anzalone added a fifth star and is Florida’s second five-star pledge.
» 10 of 14 players dropped an average of 14 spots in the rankings.

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* Early enrollee (spring 2013)

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FOUR BITS: Brissett, Johnson, HS All-Americans

1 » Will quarterback Jacoby Brissett be spending his junior season with the Florida Gators? That is one of many unanswered questions lingering in the wake of Florida’s 33-23 loss to Louisville in the 2013 Sugar Bowl on Tuesday. Brissett addressed his future after the game when questioned by the Palm Beach Post. “I haven’t decided yet,” he said. “It depends on how I feel when I get back to Gainesville and have a talk with Coach [Will] Muschamp. You grow relationships for two years with some of these people you’re around every day, and it’s hard to leave them. It depends on how I feel.” With sophomore Jeff Driskel entranced as the Gators’ starter, Brissett would likely be returning in a back-up role. He has yet to use a redshirt season and Driskel is an unlikely candidate to leave as a junior meaning Brissett, should he stay, would run the risk of either never being a full-time starter or doing so for just one year elsewhere if he transferred following the 2013 season. Dwyer High School head coach Jack Daniels said last week that he has suggested that Brissett leave even though he thinks he will stay for at least one more year.

2 » The Post also caught up with Florida sophomore running back Chris Johnson after the game and asked him how he felt about being ejected from the game after he threw a punch following the team’s onside kick attempt to start the second half. “Bad discipline on my part, but you learn from your mistakes and move on,” he said. “It was frustration. The guy was riding me a little bit. If I could do it differently, I’d walk away from it. It sucks. In my mind, I feel like I cost us the Sugar Bowl.” Johnson’s personal foul was one of two on the play, and the Cardinals started at the Gators’ 19-yard line as a result. One play later, Louisville took a 30-10 lead and all but put the game away.

3 » Seven of Florida’s 2013 commitments will compete in the 2013 Under Armour All-American Game on Friday at 5 p.m. (ESPN). Four-star wide receiver Alvin Bailey (Seffner, FL), five-star defensive back Vernon Hargreaves (Tampa, FL), four-star DB Marcell Harris (Orlando, FL), three-star offensive lineman Roderick Johnson (Delray Beach, FL), four-star DB Keanu Neal (Bushnell, FL) and four-star RB Kelvin Taylor (Belle Glade, FL) will play for the black team, while four-star linebacker Matt Rolin (Ashburn, VA) suit up for the white team. The Gators also have three targets in the game with four-star defensive tackle Caleb Brantley (Crescent City, FL), four-star defensive end DeMarcus Walker (Jacksonville, FL) and four-star DE Elijah Daniel (Avon, IN) suiting up for the black team. Walker, an early enrollee, is reportedly set to visit UF following the game and may flip from his commitment to Alabama.

4 » The 2013 U.S. Army All-American Bowl, set to air live on NBC on Saturday at 1 p.m., features four Florida commitments as four-star WR Ahmad Fulwood (Jacksonville, FL), four-star LB Daniel McMillian (Jacksonville, FL), four-star DE Jordan Sherit (Tampa, FL) and four-star DB Nick Washington (Jacksonville, FL) are members of the East Team. The Gators also have a number of targets in the game including four-star WR Demarcus Robinson (Fort Valley, GA), who plans to enroll early at the school of his choice on Monday.

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